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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Roz Lee

Shaggy Dog Syndrome

My dad used to say my mother was like an ‘ole shaggy dog – open the car door and she’d jump in. It’s not very complimentary to be sure, but it was said with a good measure of affection. The saying also had the ring of truth at our house. I inherited a few things from my mother, my hair coloring for one thing, and her resemblance to an ‘ole shaggy dog whenever there’s an open car door in the vicinity.

So when our girls suggested we take a trip for the holidays instead of buying each other a lot of gifts we didn’t really need, I started packing. After much discussion, we decided on a Caribbean cruise with some interesting ports of call. What began as a family vacation, turned out to be a life-changing event, at least for me. Somewhere in the middle of an onboard show, I dreamed up the idea for the Lothario, a hedonistic cruise ship that later became, THE LUST BOAT, my first published work.

To say we had a good time is a gross understatement, and we have the photos to prove it. We saw Mayan ruins, swam with the fishies and, in order to lounge on a Honduran beach, took a bus ride that rivaled any theme park ride we’d ever been on.

Our ship dropped anchor off the port city of Roatan, Honduras on an overcast, somewhat cool day. My shaggy dog syndrome kicked in before the lifeboats were lowered to take us to shore. I loaded up the family-sized beach tote with bottled water and sunscreen, and we stood in line for the short boat ride to our waiting pre-paid shore excursion transportation.

We were an excited bunch. The green hillsides with colorful buildings at their base beckoned us. Our excitement grew as the charming dockside plaza came into view. Our arrival was met by locals wearing, shall we say, creative costumes, dancing to… creative music. We glanced longingly at the shops lining the walkway, but our transportation awaited us. We could shop later.

It was easy enough to find our group, and soon we were ushered to a line of waiting busses. We eyed our assigned bus skeptically. This was not the air-conditioned tour bus we’d had in Belize, the one with the sealed windows and…padded seats. The paint had lost some of its yellow luster, and as my youngest stepped aboard and turned to make sure we were behind her, I contemplated the relative strength of rust, and whether it was something I should be concerned about. My husband gave me a little nudge, and I followed the girls onto the bus, the rusted out front fender mostly forgotten, overshadowed by our pending adventure.

The interior reassured, somewhat. The seats, although not padded, were clean. The open windows were clean enough to see the passing scenery, a must in my book. On the bulkhead above the driver, and just above the rear emergency exit, were hand-painted murals depicting what I assumed was the local landscape. As my girls were not accustomed to riding school buses, they didn’t know how special the extra art really was. I suspect it might have been a diversion so we wouldn’t look too close at the important parts of the vehicle – like the brakes. Or maybe we weren’t supposed to question the sanity of the driver.

In retrospect – I think we should have done both.

When every seat was filled, the driver closed the door and we headed out into the Honduran countryside to a private beach where we’d been promised a lazy day with good food and plenty of fruity drinks with paper umbrellas. I pulled out my ever present camera and prepared to document the ride. And I did. To a point.

We skirted the beach for several miles on a two-lane road lined with colorful houses and the occasional store before turning inland. It wasn’t long before I stashed the camera in favor of hanging on for dear life. The road, and I use that term loosely, wound like a corkscrew through dense jungle, rising and falling until we reached the summit of …something. I vaguely remember the tops of giant banana trees as we whisked along. Our driver slowed, sort of, at the blind, hairpin curves, and I closed my eyes and prayed nothing was coming because there wasn’t anywhere for us, or them to go, but to the base of those giant banana trees. And the road didn’t go there.

Once we reached the summit, the bus slowed as we passed a few tourist trap souvenir shops and the shack where the zip-line adventurer’s would begin their descent via a harness and pulley attached to a cable stretched over the tops of the giant banana trees. I was glad we’d chosen the lazy day on the beach. That thought lasted until we crested the summit and headed down the other side of the mountain.

Banana trees sped past our window in a blur of green. We jostled, shoulder to shoulder, hands fisted on the bar across the seat in front of us in a white knuckled grip. I came to dread the sound of the horn, as it signaled yet another curve where we might or might not play chicken with oncoming traffic. On the descent, compact cars scrunched to the edge of the road to let us pass, some with a mere heartbeat to adjust their position before our faded yellow monster would send it to the base of a giant banana tree.

You know we made to the beach and back because I’m writing this, but I can honestly say, the theme park designers need take a shore excursion to a lazy Honduran beach. There isn’t a ride yet invented to equal that one. It took a few fruity drinks with paper umbrellas to calm our nerves, and a few more to give us the nerve to get back on the bus to make the return trip to our ship.

The adventure didn’t cure my shaggy dog syndrome, but next time I think I might try the zip-line. At least the bus trip would have been shorter.

Bon Voyage! Stop in tomorrow to chat some more.

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